Mammoth cops catch a break in budget review


One-time-only budget surplus could add to force

After watching his force shrink to the bone, Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson got some welcome news this past week.

The town, with a projected one-time-only budget surplus of about $1 million, might be able to afford to add an entry-level police officer as early as July 1.

“This might be the first step on the road to recovery,” Watson said on Wednesday, April 3, after the Town Council received its mid-year budget report from Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez.

If nothing else, the move toward adding a police officer to the depleted force is symbolic.

With unexpected savings coming into the town in the form of unused legal fees left over from the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition case, as well as the early bailout of some veteran police officers ahead of schedule, the town would be able to afford another cop for at least a year.

On a force that once upon a time numbered 17 officers, the Town Council sliced the MLPD budget to the point that Watson could only afford seven officers.

And while the new officer’s spot may be a step on the road back, the fact of the matter is that the officer’s position, after one year, once more would depend on the financial vicissitudes of the town budget.

Still, even the inscrutable Marysheva-Martinez sounded optimistic about the town’s short-range prospects.

She said Mammoth’s collection of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) fees is holding steady, in spite of a three-month dry spell; and that all other “Draconian” cuts initiated by the council last December are holding firm.

“We have good news,” she said to the council in a workshop in advance of its regular meeting, “and we haven’t had good news in a long time.

“The only way from here is up. We’ve cut to the bone—actually, we’ve cut into the bone.”

In addition to the savings, Marysheva-Martinez said the town’s reserves are slowly but surely gaining strength.

In a 35-minute presentation, Marysheva-Martinez concluded her remarks with a short discussion of proposed changes to staffing and organization, funding and recruitment efforts within the Administration and Community/Economic Development sector, and the introduction of budget principles and priorities for the 2013-14 fiscal year.